The last few decades have been dominated by technological advancements and the paradigm shifts that came along. As these technologies were implemented, the organization leaders played a pivotal role in the industry-wide transitions.
Being the CIO of any organization is a tricky business- an act of balance. On one hand, these leaders have the humongous task of innovating at every step by implementing technologies, scaling up processes, and complying with regulations while protecting the network from vulnerabilities. On the other hand, they have to ensure that the entire team is on board with the changes and ready to embrace them.
Healthcare is still in the nascent stages of technology adoptions as compared to the other industries, which is why the role of a CIO has become paramount here. CIOs will have to lead the digital health adoption journey that will bring a paradigm shift in healthcare. As CIOs embark upon their journey of transformation, here are some issues they will be facing head-on:
1. Vision translates into success
Healthcare’s digital-era revolution is poised to refine the care experience for all the stakeholders. But as a CIO, you need to lay the roadmap for the team and what the organization aims to achieve in the end. This is crucial in directing all the efforts in one direction towards a vision. Additionally, micro-planning for each milestone goes a long way in driving efficiency and ensuring that the team is constantly aligned with the vision. CIOs need to take time to understand their organization’s efficiency, capabilities, and resources to lay out the plan for their vision- none of which will happen overnight. It takes time, but it’s essential.
2. Picking the right IT model for your care vision
With a boom in the EHR technology, various vendors came up with numerous applications dedicated to solving one issue at a time. Everyone built what they could and not what was needed. As a result, healthcare is riddled with siloed data which have blindsided the care teams.
Healthcare is evolving rapidly and the needs of the care teams change in almost every two years. Keeping this in mind, CIOs should drill down and look deeper into the capabilities of vendors relating to interoperability, flexibility, scalability, and data quality. A best practice would be to have an IT engagement wherein the outcomes for all care initiatives can be reconciled and tied back to the resources on one single application.
3. Addressing cybersecurity issues
Considering the potential of healthcare data and the recent hacks, healthcare organizations cannot afford a weak cybersecurity infrastructure. Protecting PHI from cyber attacks is the topmost priority for everyone. Investing in cybersecurity measures has not only become a wise move but a necessary one as well. Yet, 46% of healthcare organizations spend less than $500,000 annually on ensuring cybersecurity.
Let’s put these numbers into perspective. A cyber attack costs a hospital $3.5 million on an average, whereas a cybercriminal could be using a full-fledged exploit kit for a mere $3,000. A data breach could set a hospital back by $200 per health record, but only $8 go into keeping that record secure. Although no electronic system is 100% impenetrable, having infrastructures in place that could cope with such attacks can limit the impact and the likelihood of breaches.
4. Patient data ownership
According to a Gartner report, “patient data is fast becoming the currency of the US healthcare system.”
As healthcare digitizes, the CIOs of provider organizations have to ensure that they balance the data needs of the practice, as well as the rights of the individual patients. CIOs should regulate and revise their policies to ensure that they are in line with the industry rules around patient data and ownership. Managing the consent of the patients and the integrity of their data is a priority for an organization going forward. With stakeholder preferences shifting to multi-device continuum, CIOs have to be prepared with measures to ensure a smooth experience for both care teams and patients while meeting HIPAA compliance.
5. Scaling up operations
Healthcare has made significant strides in improving population health and controlling expenditure. As the processes become more and more data-driven, healthcare organizations are gearing up to scale their efforts and switch to risk-based model. Changes like these or addition of a new care setting require a proper assessment of existing facilities to make sure that the organization has the skills and resources that are enough to meet the needs of an expanding network.
Also, the organization’s technology should be supportive of the new care initiatives and shouldn’t require an overhaul of the existing infrastructure.
6. Leading the change management
Disruptions, revolutions, changes- these continue to impact healthcare, and will always do. Any change in healthcare is not only a transforming event but a catalyst that consolidates an organization’s operations and initiatives. Since healthcare is a collaborative space, the primary thing to do is to become proactive. CIOs need to understand the elements of the incoming change and assess how necessary they are. Stepping up and understanding the rationale for any change is the key to bring out the intended, positive outcome. This should be followed by an examination of the impacts of any change and the needed resources. From training the employees and implementations to receiving feedbacks and addressing them, CIOs have to be on the forefront of all changes. Be it a change in the hospital’s infrastructure or regulatory- changes in healthcare happen on multiple levels. CIOs can make all the pieces function together.
7. The patient side of the equation: Care experience
Although technology is an area of importance for a CIO, it’s equally important that they focus on patient experience as well. The discussion about borrowing a page or two from other industries and making healthcare patient-centric has been a long one, but the role of a CIO is crucial in making it happen. It has been widely established that technology has to be leveraged to advocate patient-centric care, and it’s time CIOs added that to their to-do lists. CIOs have to drive this transformation, putting strategies in place that not just assess patient views, but make sure it reaches physicians and is addressed timely.
The road ahead
30 years ago, we would have never imagined there would a millimeter-long silicon chip resting next to our hearts- and today, pacemakers are transmitting the state of our heart by the second. 30 years ago, the job description of a CIO was pretty limited and CIOs today are at the nucleus of transformations in the world. The role of a CIO isn’t just limited to putting the top-notch technology in place. A CIO is entrusted with learning from the past, finding answers to the questions of the present, and plotting a roadmap for the future. It’s a new wave every day, and we need CIOs in this evolution of healthcare.
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